Quote of the Day: “You Just Tell Them and They Believe You”

Billy Bush of Access Hollywood fame has a piece in the New York Times today. It’s mostly about Donald Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” remark, but there’s also this about the summer of 2015, right after Trump announced his candidacy:

In the days, weeks and months to follow, I was highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency. The man who once told me — ironically, in another off-camera conversation — after I called him out for inflating his ratings: “People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you,” was, I thought, not a good choice to lead our country.

This is a very shrewd remark from Trump. And while it’s not an insight unique to him, he’s certainly taken it to far greater lengths than we’re used to.

I remember thinking about this years ago. It was pretty clear that the vast majority of people—not cynical political junkies like us, but normal people—basically just believe whatever politicians say. It’s an interesting contradiction. In surveys, huge majorities say that politicians are horribly untrustworthy charlatans, but in real life they uncritically accept nearly anything they say. Their past records don’t matter much. The unlikelihood of what they’re promising doesn’t penetrate. Even fairly obvious insincerity isn’t a deal killer. If you say you’re going to cut taxes and reduce the deficit, they believe. If you say you’re going to provide universal health care without raising taxes on the middle class, they believe. People believe pretty much anything.

Or maybe not. It’s also possible that they don’t believe so much as they simply discount everything and treat promises as mere declarations of a candidate’s values. The fact that Trump approves of cutting taxes and reducing the deficit is all that matters. The fact that Bernie Sanders approves of universal healthcare and funding it solely by taxes on the rich shows that he’s a true progressive.

In the end, Trump may turn out to be less right than he thinks. But he’s still pretty close to right: “You just tell them and they believe you.” It’s not true of everyone, and it’s not true all the time, but it’s true for an awful lot of people an awful lot of the time.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate